Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hyperbarbaria: Rangers of the Skallic Lodge

Yesterday, I finished off banging out the print run of Metal Gods #1 for GaryCon as well as a super-secret surprise from Mr. +Wayne Snyder that I'm printing for the event (and maybe more stuff, later), which means that today, I'm left with just the few around-the-house chores I have to get done before the lovely wife and I head off to Lake Geneva, which means that I'll gladly procrastinate to bring you some new craziness from my brain. Today, I finally get around to presenting the version of the ranger that +Shane Jones plays in my Delving Deeper game, Hyperbarbaria. In short, the Rangers of the Skallic Lodge are an ancient fraternity that haunts the fringes of Hyperbarbaria to hunt not men or orcs (hard to hunt orcs when there aren't any in settings I run), but to exterminate Things That Should Not Be. 

In the old days, when Ur-Hadad was firmly in the grasp of the Elder Races and Man little better than a favored pet, the touch of the Elder Races was largely unknown in the reaches of Hyperbarbaria. Raiding parties of elves or serpent men would occasionally hunt for slaves here, and gave the human tribes of the region good reason to band together. Just as the first fiefdoms and nations began to coalesce in the wild steppe, the Skalls struck.

The tall, raven-haired, muscular Skallic people descended upon Hyperbarbaria from the east, scaling the faces of the mountains there and catching the nascent Hyperbarbarians off guard. The leaders of the Skalls had promised their warriors and raiders new lands to plunder and blood to spill and so the Skalls had gladly come to this unknown land. The feast for their blades and appetites intoxicated a people bent on destruction, and soon little was left of the peoples who had been there before the Skalls.

Never before had the Skalls found so much to slaughter and so much to take as they had in Hyperbarbaria, and, as such, the land began to enter their religious consciousness as a sort of holy promised land, shown them by their grim mountain gods that they may take from it as they saw fit. Though the Skalls moved on from this holy land in search of new places to raid, Hyperbarbaria would remain entrenched in the people's psyche as a paradise on Ore, an earthly reward for following the gods' edicts where one might slaughter and raid with impunity.

Ages past, and Man came back to Hyperbarbaria, often to escape the Elder Races, often to escape the Skalls, but most often because so few competitors existed in the now-bleak landscape left in the Skalls' wake. Again, tribes burgeoned, grew into fiefdoms and those fiefdoms became small nations. Though the high plains' resources were much diminished, the peoples of Hyperbarbaria built anew and managed to thrive. The lessons of Skall had been learned and learned well. When the Elder Races came to raid for slaves, they found rough going here, and thus Hyperbarbaric slaves became highly prized as warriors or household guards, leading to a new series of wars against Elder Race slavers.

It was then that The Mountain came. Thrust up from the bowels of Ore, The Mountain jutted out of the earth like a broken bone through skin. Announced by weeks worth of earthquakes, The Mountain's coming on the northern border of the territory was little surprise but no small mystery. The men who approached her returned with villainous, sorcerous powers and so each chieftan and noble sent men from his court to bring such power back, the better to fight the Elder Races with. A black cancer ate at the souls of these men, filling them with power, yes, but at the price of corrupting them entirely. When the Elder Races took up raiding the Hyperbarbarians again, it was against a people fractured by warring sorcerer-kings who had usurped their previous rulers and claimed dominion; the Elders' Mountain had done its job.

When word reached the Skalls that their holy land had been corrupted by sorcery and overrun by Elder slavers, the shamans of the Stag-Headed God, the priests of the God of Black Skies and dirge-singers of the God Under the Mountain all called for righteous holy war. This, they claimed, was the task that the gods had set before them: that they should earn their right to their paradise by cleansing it of the foulness that tainted it. Clan after clan of Skalls joined the crusade and soon the steppe was awash in blood. As the crusade wore on, both sides committed atrocities: the Skalls of violence and holocaust, The Mountain's sorcerers of the spirit and soul.

In the end, The Mountain's sorcerers were slain to a man, but so too were the Skalls decimated. Too few Skalls remained to enforce their claim to the holy land, and so they were driven off, but before the Skalls departed, they left behind a small host. The shamans of the Stag-Headed God charged the host to hunt down The Mountain's corruption, should it rise again, and sacrifice their own lives to protect the world from it, should such be needed. The God Under the Mountain's dirge-singers taught them the songs of stoicism and epics of endurance. The priests of the God of Black Skies entrusted them with the task of immolating any corruption, that it might cauterize the wound wrought upon the world. Thus was the Skallic Lodge built, a fraternity of men and women devoted to keeping Hyperbarbaria free from the bleak influences of The Mountain.

The Rangers of the Skallic Lodge

Rangers of the Skallic Lodge are trackers, wardens of the wild places of Hyperbarbaria and remorseless hunters of the vile abominations of The Mountain. These rangers spend the vast bulk of their time in the wilderness, scouting for signs of corruption before they may take root in more civilized lands; thus, they are trained in a wide array of survival techniques, fighting styles and wilderness skills that would support prolonged activity outside of Man's normal dominion. Though they may use any weapon, these rangers are limited to leather or chain mail armor to preserve mobility and stealth. In order to become a ranger, a character must be Lawful in alignment and posses a minimum of 10 Strength, 10 Intelligence, 10 Dexterity, 10 Wisdom and 13 Constitution. Rangers may use any fighting style and save as a fighter of the same level. At higher levels, rangers gain the ability to cast a limited number of spells (see below).

Rangers gain more experience for defeating creatures than normal; increase such awards by 25%. By the same token, rangers gain less experience for accumulating treasure; reduce such awards by 25%. Further, rangers may not gain additional experience from a high prime requisite and carousing yields 50% the normal experience gain. A ranger may not own any treasure that he cannot carry with him until he is of 9th level (name level) and establishes his own Lodge.

Each ranger of the Skallic Lodge learns the Skallic tongue in addition to any other language he or she may know. The brothers and sisters of the Lodge use this tongue as a secret form of communication due to its current rarity in Hyperbarbaria.

In the wilderness, rangers are very difficult to surprise and are thus only surprised on a roll of "1." Similarly, they are quite stealthy and may ambush foes in a natural setting, improving the chance to surprise them by 1 (to 3-in-6). A ranger may move silently and hide in natural settings like a thief. The ranger cannot use any of these abilities in settlements or dungeon settings. Rangers always have the ability to follow tracks and does so on a roll of 3 or better on a d6.

Rangers of the Skallic Lodge are skilled in fighting the horrors wrought by The Mountain and, as such, gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage against beastmen and all monsters whose origin can be traced to The Mountain. These rangers may also unerringly identify all breeds of beast men and most horrors.

Casting their nets as wide as possible, so as not to miss any signs of The Mountain's corruption, a ranger of the Skallic Lodge may not work with more than one of his brothers or sisters. Nor may rangers hire any henchmen or mercenaries, lest they impede his sacred duty to the holy land of Hyperbarbaria. At 8th level, these restrictions are lifted and the ranger begins to attract followers for his own Lodge.

Also at 8th level, the ranger gains the ability to cast a small number of spells. The ranger will gain druidic (or clerical if your game does not have druids) and magic-user spells according to the chart below.

At 9th level, the ranger may found his own Lodge (really a branch of the existing Skallic Lodge), protecting a wilderness area as its warden.

                                                                                                   Spells
                                                                                         Druid       Magic-User                                  
Level                 Experience                     HD               1st 2nd 3rd  | 1st 2nd 3rd
1                                0                             2
2                             2500                          3
3                             5000                          4
4                           12,000                         5
5                           25,000                         6
6                           50,000                         7
7                          100,000                        8
8                          175,000                        9                  1
9                          275,000                       10                 1                   1
10                        550,000                       10+2             2     1            1
11                        825,000                       10+4             2     1            2     1
12                      1,100,000                      10+6             3     2    1      2     1
13                      1,375,000                      10+8             3     2    1      3     2    1